Whiskey Review: Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye

Staff Writer
From the Boston Tea Party to whiskey
Steven Zeller

The Colonel E.H. Rye Whiskey.

Returning from last week's jaunt to Paris, we find ourselves back in the good old US of A.

Reflecting on Americans' values, we think most would agree that tea doesn't float our boats nearly as much as booze. And speaking of which, did it ever strike you as odd that our big symbolic national rebellion against the British was the Boston Tea Party? Sure, sure "no taxation without representation" yada yada...  But even in grade school, back when your faithful SmokyBeast authors were but young prepubescent whisky snobs, we found it hard to picture a bunch of rough-and-tumble pioneer Americans getting huffy and puffy over Earl Grey. It seems very... well, very British doesn't it?

There's a reason for this. The fact is that most pre-Revolution Americans weren't actually paying a whole lot of cash in tea taxes. That was a problem for the upper echelon: the city-dwellers, the import/export types that couldn't take a sack of flowers and stick it in some hot water on their own.  The majority of Americans, the farmers, didn't pay cash for tea. They didn't pay cash for anything.  Because the currency of choice in Washington's time was... drumroll please... rye whiskey.

Do You Take Hooch?

Yes, the custom of the time was that farmers would take their extra crops, whatever wasn't used to feed family and village, and distill them into whiskey. They'd learned the art of distillation from their rum and beer-bearing European immigrant relatives. Rye whiskey became a common currency for barter amongst the colonialists. It lasted forever, took up less space than grain, and well...  tasted delicious and got you drunk. Seems like a no-brainer. Can you imagine if all your financial transactions were conducted in booze? It would make for a very interesting day.

Brass Tacks

So tea party, schmea party, the real business came after the war. Washington's generals had returned to their home turf. Many became captains of industry. One such hero of the Revolutionary War was Commodore Richard Taylor. He was the father of two things: The distillery that would eventually be called George T. Stagg and then Buffalo Trace, and also, less importantly, the 12th president of the United States, Zachary Taylor. But never mind that, let's talk about the whiskey.

After the U.S. was won, Washington faced the challenge of forming a new government. In order to do this, he needed cash. His homeboy (and Treasury Secretary) Alex Hamilton had a bright idea: tax whiskey. 

The Whiskey Rebellion

Well, low and behold, Washington's old war buddies didn't like that very much. In fact they were so PO'd, that they dusted off the muskets and decided that they'd take up arms against Old George, 'Father of Our Nation' or not. It would be pretty much like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera heading off to beat up Joe Torre.

Well, off they went, figuring that they'd called GW's bluff and he'd call off the tax and leave them be. But for all his puffy pants and wooden teeth, Washington actually wasn't messing around. He rounded up 13,000 troops, and rode right at the head of the militia to surpress his war-buddies-turned-booze-rebellers.

It turned out that it was the farmers who were bluffing. When they saw Washington roll up with the governors of Virginia and Maryland, and thousands of troops ready to throw down, they packed up and headed home. And since then taxes have been as familiar to whiskey as hangovers and one-night stands. As a matter of fact when Washington retired, he started his own distillery and *evidently* paid taxes on every barrel of rye he produced.

Fast-forward two generations and another Taylor was at the helm of Buffalo Trace, Colonel E.H.  Today we drink a rye bearing his name, that supposedly follows the original family recipe.

Click here for tasting notes on the Colonel E.H. rye whiskey.

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